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 By Nick Said

Potential for history in MTN8 this weekend

Benni McCarthy, coach of Cape Town City FC (l) in discussion with Gavin Hunt, coach of Bidvest Wits
Benni McCarthy, coach of Cape Town City FC (l) in discussion with Gavin Hunt, coach of Bidvest Wits

There is the potential for history to be made this weekend as the South African domestic season resumes with the second legs of the MTN8 semifinals that could see two clubs book a final place for the first time.

The MTN8 has a handsome first prize of some US$615,000, the richest of the country's domestic cups, and cash that would be most handy to Cape Town City and Maritzburg United.

Neither has reached the final before, though the former are only in the second year of their existence, but stand excellent chances of doing so in the coming days.

City travel to defending MTN8 and league champions BidVest Wits on Sunday with a 1-0 lead from the home leg a fortnight ago, having already won 1-0 in Johannesburg earlier in the campaign in the league.

Maritzburg are level at 1-1 with SuperSport United ahead of their return on Saturday evening, but have proven a very tough nut to crack at home in recent times and will fancy their chances at the Harry Gwala Stadium.

City have looked solid under new coach Benni McCarthy, with four wins from four so far and just a single goal conceded.

They have lost skipper Lebogang Manyama to Turkish side Konyaspor, but his absence from the first leg in Cape Town was barely felt the array of attacking talent the side has in the midfield.

Manyama's exit will likely only hit home when injuries take their toll later in the campaign.

Lebogang Manyama of Cape Town City is challenged by Nhlanhla Vilakazi of Free State Stars during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 game between Cape Town City and Free State Stars at Cape Town Stadium.
Lebogang Manyama of Cape Town City is challenged by Nhlanhla Vilakazi of Free State Stars during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 game between Cape Town City and Free State Stars at Cape Town Stadium.

"It's another incredibly tough game for us," McCarthy told reporters. "We go to Wits, we've beaten them twice already, in the league and the cup. But we know, in the cup, it's only the first half gone, this is the second half now.

"And we know [Wits coach] Gavin Hunt's mentality. He will have his men psyched up for this game. They are at home and they will be looking to finish us off.

"But they also know they have to be careful with us. They know what we possess, they know what we can do, and they know that we can beat them. So it won't be that easy for them."

Wits have started the new season with two draws and two defeats, and could be set for their worst run of results since 2012 if they fail to beat City and finally record a win.

They have also lost a star name in Phakamani Mahlambi to Al Ahly in Egypt, but will bank on goals from impressive Egyptian striker Amr Gamal in what will be his second appearance if he plays.

Maritzburg have been the surprise package of the season so far with three wins and a draw from their four games.

They look compact and tidy under coach Fadlu Davids, who helped steer the side to their best ever league finish last season in a caretaker coach capacity, before being given the role permanently ahead of this campaign.

He can now make two more pieces of history on Saturday - take the club to a first ever MTN8 final and also record a first ever home victory over SuperSport at what will be the 14th attempt.

The previous 13 games between the two sides in Pietermaritzburg have resulted in five draws and eight wins for visiting SuperSport.

"We have to be cautious," Davids said this week. "We have an away goal, but if SuperSport scores, that really puts us on the back foot. We know we can only draw 0-0, other than that we have to go out and win the game.

"We must respect SuperSport's quality, we know that are an extremely dangerous team; while you are on the attack they can immediately score a goal, exactly like they did in the first leg.

"So we have to be aware of their strengths and approach the game in a very pragmatic way. We can't go all-out attack, open ourselves up. On the one hand you want to defend the 0-0, but if they score that all changes."

SuperSport will likely welcome back striker Jeremy Brockie, who missed the first leg of this tie after putting in a transfer request to try and push through a move to Mamelodi Sundowns that never materialised.

He has been named in the match-day 18 for the second leg and will be searching for his 50th goal for the club in all competitions.

SuperSport reached the final of this competition in 2012 but surprisingly lost to Moroka Swallows. Their last victory was all the way back in 2004.

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